Forget about Dak Prescott’s second-half struggles, the inefficiency of Prescott hooking up with Dez Bryant and the defense playing without Sean Lee.
Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli had an easy explanation for Sunday’s 35-30 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
“It’s tough to win close games with no takeaways,” Marinelli said. “You’ve got to have them.”
The Rams did. They had two – recovering a muffed punt by returner Ryan Switzer and intercepting a pass by Prescott. The Cowboys did not.
It’s the second consecutive week the Cowboys have failed to get a takeaway. They are tied for 23rd in the league with three takeaways through the first four games.
The Cowboys host the Green Bay Packers Sunday at AT&T Stadium.
“It’s a point of emphasis every week,” coach Jason Garrett said. “You have to take the ball away. One of the things we emphasize as much as anything else is win the turnover battle. Statistics in the NFL this year, last year, the last 10, 20, 30 [years] all the way back, if you win the turnover battle, your chances of winning are significantly better. So that’s a point of emphasis for us. Taking care of the football and going to get the football.
“[Sunday’s] game, that might’ve been the single most important factor. You think about the two turnovers that we had, the one on the punt return and the interception later in the ballgame, and the fact that we couldn’t cash in and take the ball away from them. In a game like that I think we had 10 possessions, they had 12. We scored on a lot of them. They scored on a lot of them. Those opportunities, those scoring chances get impacted by the turnovers and the takeaways and to me that was the difference in the ballgame.”
The Cowboys had two chances at turnovers. On the first play from scrimmage of the second half, defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence had a strip-sack of Rams quarterback Jared Goff.
But the Cowboys couldn’t come up with the loose ball.
Later in the half, cornerback Anthony Brown had an interception slip through his hands. Brown lamented it afterward, saying he misjudged it and jumped too early.
“Those were the most glaring ones,” Garrett said. “Unfortunately, a really good rush by DeMarcus Lawrence there. That would have been a really good way to start the second half. He gets the ball knocked out and it’s there for us, and unfortunately we’re not able to recover it. And then the Anthony Brown opportunity to go up and make the play on the ball.
“Again, not a lot of opportunities over the course of the game, and when you get them you’ve got to cash in on them. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to do it in those two instances.”
The Cowboys were a middle-of-the-road team in taking the ball away last season with 20. They forced and recovered 11 fumbles and had nine interceptions.
In 2015, the Cowboys were the worst in the NFL with just 11 takeaways. In 2014, they had the second-most with 31.
The Cowboys went into the season with the goal of getting 40 takeaways, but are now on pace for just 12.
The Cowboys understand they have to cash in on those opportunities when they come their way.
As Brown put it, “Just one of them days, man.”